Your nerves transmit pain signals to your brain through specialized nerve cells called nociceptors. When your nerve is pinched, compressed, or injured, the nociceptors release neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that help your nerve cells “talk” to each other.
Each time your brain receives the message that a nerve is in distress, it responds by either increasing the pain you feel, numbing it with endorphins, or stimulating your immune system to start the healing process. If one or more of your nerves is pinched, or compressed, that pain-signaling system never turns off, which can lead to constant, chronic pain.
Ravi Panjabi, MD, our pain specialist at Advanced Pain Management in Castro Valley, San Ramon, and Fremont, California, alleviates all types of pain, including pain caused by compressed nerves. Following are some of the remedies we offer that may help you break the pain cycle.
The remedy depends on the cause
Your nerve may become compressed, or pinched, in any number of ways. One of the most common ways to develop a pinched nerve is from an injury that heals imperfectly. The resulting scar tissue puts pressure on the nerve, and it continually sends pain signals to your brain.
Another common source of compressed nerves is a slipped or herniated vertebral disc. Vertebral discs separate your vertebral bones from one another so that you can move your spine with ease and without grating bone on bone. The discs also absorb shocks.
However, when you rupture a disc or it dries out and leaks material into the spinal canal, it can compress the spinal nerves, causing constant pain. Another way a spinal nerve gets compressed is if you have arthritis in your spine that causes your spinal canal to become narrower, a condition known as spinal stenosis.
If you have chronic joint or back pain, we first conduct a thorough examination and imaging studies to identify all the factors that contribute to your discomfort. If we identify a pinched or compressed nerve, Dr. Panjabi prescribes a treatment based on the cause of the compression.
Decompression takes the pressure off
If your nerve is compressed by a damaged vertebral disc, you may experience pain that radiates from your lower back all the way down to your leg. You may also have a compressed nerve due to a ruptured disc in your neck or middle spine.
A disc decompression procedure is minimally invasive and is done on an outpatient basis. Your doctor extracts material from the center of the disc that’s compressing a nerve root. By removing that extra material, he takes the pressure off the nerve.
You may need to wear a back brace after your procedure. You should be able to return to most activities within about seven days.
Nerve blocks stop the pain signals
Different types of nerve blocks prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. We inject the area near the nerve with a combination of anesthetics and steroids to decrease the conduction of pain signals. Nerve blocks help with:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Groin pain
- Leg or knee pain
Each type of pain is caused by a different nerve.
Injections subdue inflammation
An epidural injection stops the pain of a compressed nerve by alleviating inflamed tissue that surrounds the nerve. An epidural injection is administered into the epidural space, which is a fat-filled area in the spinal canal that protects and cushions your spinal cord.
Another type of injection is a caudal injection. In this case, the injection is administered into the caudal canal, which is an area at the lower end of your spinal cord.
Injections consist of anesthetics and a steroid. The anesthetic immediately numbs the pain. The steroid reduces inflammation, which alleviates pressure on the nerve.
Regenerative therapy restores nerves
In some instances, regenerative therapy such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) can heal inflamed tissue that presses on the nerves or heal the traumatized nerves themselves. PRP and other regenerative therapies also nourish the nerve with new blood vessels.
Find out how you take the pressure off your nerves and feel pain-free again by booking a pain consultation today. Call our office nearest you or use our online booking tool to get started on your journey toward relief.